It's D-Day for Donaghy

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

The sad, sordid and sometimes surreal saga of former NBA official Tim Donaghy comes to an end today -- sort of.

While a U.S. district court judge will sentence the defrocked referee in Brooklyn, N.Y., the entire can of worms Donaghy opened has yet to be closed, including allegations that current NBA officials helped in conspiring to alter the outcome of games.

Donaghy, 41, faces up to 33 months in prison after pleading guilty last year to taking thousands of dollars in payoffs from a professional gambler for inside information.

Donaghy's 13-year career with the league came to an abrupt end and shortly after the revelations came news that his wife of 12 years had filed for divorce.

Privately, the NBA is hoping Judge Carol Amon throws the book at Donaghy, who alleges the outcomes of games during the 2002 and '05 post-seasons were altered.

Equally obvious is that the NBA wants the Donaghy affair to disappear forever, an unlikely scenario given all the attention this story has received and its implications.

The league has tried to take steps in ensuring that its officials are beyond reproach at a time when officiated games have come under so much scrutiny and second-guessing.

Quietly and without much fanfare, the NBA restructured its referee operations department, naming Bernie Fryer as vice-president and director of officials, Joe Borgia as vice-president/referee operations and appointing Ronnie Nunn as director of development.

It's a first step in what many believe amounts to a perception crisis that won't go away until the entire Donaghy mess is completely resolved.

For those keeping score, Fox News first reported that Donaghy made in excess of 100 telephone calls to Scott Foster, considered one of the game's most capable officials, at the exact same time Donaghy was providing the inside scoop to known gamblers.

Then came an ESPN investigation that linked veteran Dick Bavetta in the Donaghy trail.

Specifically, two former refs told the sports network that federal investigators had questioned them about Bavetta while investigating Donaghy.

In a league where image is everything, the NBA tried to play down Donaghy's claims when further alleged wrongdoing was brought to light during the marquee Celtics/Lakers final.

In the same courtroom Donaghy will be sentenced today, the NBA earlier this month requested financial restitution, a figure first pegged at $1 million US but later confirmed as $1.4 million.

As defence lawyers are known to do, they are trying to portray Donaghy as some sympathetic figure who was a compulsive gambler, all in the name of the judge exercising leniency.

They want you to believe that Donaghy's downward spiral began on the golf course, where he allegedly wagered up to $500 a hole.

Donaghy's two ex-classmates are in jail for more than a year for their roles in the betting scandal that shook the mighty NBA to its very foundation.

Regardless of the sentence handed down today, the public ultimately will pass judgment on the NBA and its officials.

The more vigilant the league becomes in monitoring the work of its officials, the more accepting the paying customer, even the most jaded, will be.

The more transparent the league presents itself, the less likely it will have to answer to questions regarding rogue refs.

The league has to accept blame that its system failed it and the fans who support the game.

Donaghy, no doubt, is heading to jail.

Sometime later today, we will know for how long.

For the NBA, it can't be long enough.

EUROPE AND EUROS

Amazing how some describe the decision of fringe NBA players to play abroad as the beginning of some troublesome trend.

Outside of Josh Childress, who is a decent player with some upside, no one of any significance has bolted the NBA for Europe.

Money, like most things, is at the root of players looking overseas.

Once the money runs out, which is inevitable, players, especially the U.S.-born athlete, will be back quicker than the Golden State Warriors play in transition.

Until a bonafide NBA superstar in his prime decides to play in Europe, no one should be worried about any exodus.


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